Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, like me, commute to work by bicycle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau? That’s a lot of cars off the road each day, gasoline saved and a ton of calories burned.
Maybe you’re a bicycle commuter already — or maybe you want to give it a try. Even if you simply ride for recreation or exercise, these tips from the League of American Bicyclists, other organizations and me will help you prepare for the challenges you’ll face on your ride. (We’ve included a few tips for drivers, too.)
1. Be prepared. Always maintain and check your bike and other equipment before you leave on each trip. Also carry the proper tools and gear. A dedicated backpack allows you to safely carry your work clothes for the day and additional riding gear if the weather changes before you return home.
2. Obey the law, traffic signals and signs. You have a right to be on the road with cars, but you also have the same duties. Ride in a consistent and predictable way so you don’t surprise the vehicles around you. Consider using less congested roads.
3. Stay right. Ride with the flow of traffic in the right lane and in a predictable manner. If possible, ride in a straight line and leave room for you to make emergency maneuvers.
4. Be visible. Drivers are often distracted, and many aren’t expecting to see cyclists on the road. So make them see you! Stay out of blind spots. Wear bright-colored clothing during the day, with reflective clothing and lights at night or in inclement weather. Also use hand signals so motorists know your intentions.
5. Consider the conditions. Riding can be miserable when it’s wet, foggy, windy or cold, unless you wear clothing appropriate for the circumstances. Staying dry and warm improves your comfort. If it is not daylight while you’re riding, front and rear LED lights will help you see and be seen.
6. Be hyper-aware. Scan your surroundings constantly so you can anticipate a problem and react quickly. Listen to the sounds of traffic around you such as larger vehicles, rapid acceleration and honking horns. Pay attention to cars parked alongside the curb; a door can fly open at any moment. In Ocean Shores, watch for deer walking or running into the street - they won’t yield for you.
7. Wear a helmet. There are many brands, styles, colors and price points to choose from. Yes, the wind blowing through the helmet’s vents may mess up your hair, but in the event of a fall you’ll be glad you were wearing it.
Bonus tips for drivers: Stay on the lookout for cyclists. Don’t drive in the bike lane. When you see them, be patient — they have a right to the road, too. If you park on the street, don’t park in the bike lane and check behind you before opening doors. And, always remember that your significant size and speed advantage can be deadly in an accident.
Cars and bicycles can, in fact, peacefully coexist on the roads. All it takes is a little preparation and a lot of awareness, along with some understanding thrown in for good measure.
If you’re regularly riding your bicycle – you may want to specifically list it on your homeowners insurance. We may also be able to help you get a special discount on your car insurance if you’re driving fewer miles. Call today for details!